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Conflict in Church: Resolving Disputes with Biblical Strategies

bibleThis week’s Texas Conflict Coach® radio program, Understanding and Preventing Conflict: Staying Out of The Mediation Emergency Room, featured guest Dale Payne, the President and CEO of Peacemaker Ministries. With the help of biblical strategies, this organization’s purpose is to assist Christians and their churches in comprehending and resolving conflicts effectively. Dale Payne also addresses the fact that churches are just as vulnerable to conflicts and disputes as any other organization. Their website features many conflict resolution resources for Christians.

One resource titled “Resolving Conflict through Christian Conciliation” provided by the Peacemaker Ministries offers valuable strategies for dispute resolution. One of the first tips listed by the resource is utilizing conflict coaching. While not getting fully involved in the conflict, an individual who is “coaching” can counsel and offer advice from an outside perspective. Additionally, this can help encourage an individual to seek a resolution with the opposition privately. The resource states that in doing so, you are helping the individual to obey Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15, ‘If you … remember that your brother has something against you …, go and be reconciled,’ and ‘If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.’” Peacemaker Ministries provides a strategy called the Four G’s of Peacemaking which are the basic principles required for individuals to address conflict biblically. These Four G’s are: Glorify God, Get the log out of your own eye (see the situation form the other person’s perspective), Gently Restore and Go and be reconciled. To find out more about the Four G’s of Peacemaking click here.

When conflict coaching is not effective, the resource stresses the importance of mediation. Mediation is an effective tool when dealing with disputes by creating situations that support communication and facilitation with the goal of finding a voluntary resolution between parties. To emphasize this point, Peacemaker Ministries cite Matthew 18:16 by stating “but if [your brother] will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’.”   Additionally, the resource provides a six-step mediation process called “GOSPEL” which is effective when dealing with disputes. The first step Greeting and ground rules focuses on planning and agreeing on how a resolution should be accomplished. Opening statements deals with brief declarations from both parties describing their preferred outcome. Story telling assists in more detailed communication between the parties. Problem identification and clarification allows those involved to express their main issues or concerns. Exploring solutions is a brainstorm process seeking realistic solutions. The final step is Lead to an agreement, which encourages finding a conclusive agreement.

However, if mediation is also ineffective to reaching resolution, arbitration may be a solution to the conflict. Arbitration is guided by a mutually selected individual or church member with the authority to make a final decision on the matter. The resource offers both valuable and extensive information on resolving conflicts in the church through conflict coaching, mediation and arbitration. While there is much more information at the Peacemaking Ministries webpage, the booklet Guiding People through Conflict offers an even more detailed look at the procedures. Peacemaker Ministry also offers biblical conflict resolution training programs here.

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

 

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Church Turbulence – Resolving Conflict with Communication, Conversation and Community

church-split-5Conflicts are a substantial part of everyone’s life. Whether you are driving to work or walking your dog, conflict can be sparked by any simple situation. Not only is conflict unavoidable, but it also has no barriers. It is present in small group meetings and even in large classrooms. From town hall meetings to church communities, conflict remains a key characteristic of human interaction. However, one might wonder how it could even be possible for conflicts to arise in a peaceful setting such as a church. Disagreements and misunderstandings are realistic possibilities for potential conflicts in church communities. Differences about religious strictness and practices, as well as other secular disputes between members are common conflicts in the church as well. Variances in beliefs as well as the willingness to modify views also create many disagreements.

This week’s Texas Conflict Coach® radio program featured Joey Cope, the Executive Director of the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution. Their website provides resources for resolving conflicts in the church. One page, Resolving Church Conflicts, provided by the Center, states that in order to be successful in resolving church related conflicts, one “must seek a commitment to peace — for you personally, for your church leaders, and eventually for your entire church membership”. Their strategies for peace-making rely on what they call “the 3 C’s”.

The first strategy is Communication. The article stresses the importance of actively dealing with conflicts in the church rather than avoiding them. Communication is a key aspect when attempting to reach a resolution between parties. The second strategy draws upon communication, and takes it a step further. Conversation is an enrichment of communication and deals more directly with interpersonal exchanges of ideas between parties. Conversation allows individuals to establish basic relationships, while building the skills necessary to express their perspectives. The final strategy deals with the importance of Community. Possibly the most important aspect of “the 3 C’s”, a committed community is essential for conflict resolution to take place. Additionally, it is important for church leaders to be dedicated to their beliefs. This devotion to the church makes getting to a resolution more significant and conceivable. The article stresses the importance of community by stating that “if we have no commitment to community, we will never see peace in our churches.”

Churches and church communities might be hesitant to seek a neutral third party to help resolve disputes because of the belief that conflicts should not occur in the first place. According to Joey Cope, “Peace is not the absence of conflict.” Conflicts do arise in a peaceful environment and can be resolved through religious principles and practice. Realistically, some conflicts in the church will require a third party neutral to facilitate conversations in order to find a mutual resolution. Check out another previous radio program, Mediating with True Believers, to learn more about how church members use neutral mediators and how religious communities respond to conflict, in general.

 

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

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Virtual Disputes Are Very Real: Resolving Consumer Complaints

ecommerce_472With the internet being as prevalent as it is today, most people have either bought or sold items online. Some people rely on the internet as their main method of shopping, while others use online resources to compare competing prices before physically heading to the store. No matter how you use the internet for business, conflict is an underlying issue that is definitely going to be included in transactions. It is important for you to understand that these types of conflicts are unique because of the distance and anonymity between the seller and buyer. Usually, the individuals conducting business do not know each other and most likely will never meet. There is in a sense a virtual disconnect between seller and buyer; however, disputes between the two remain very real. Language barriers and cultural differences on both sides of the transaction create an even more complex situation.

So how have websites like eBay, a major online shopping platform, been so successful in establishing smooth transactions and customer confidence? The reason for these successes is primarily due to a trust-based feedback system. After each transaction, both the seller and buyer leave feedback remarks about each other. That way, a new customer can choose a vendor and read about the experiences of previous customers. Additionally, this motivates sellers to conduct legitimate and appropriate business because a negative review might deter a future buyer. This method has created a safe and organized business environment amongst strangers that other marketplaces like Craigslist cannot offer. However, even with this structure, conflicts are bound to arise.

On a previous Texas Conflict Coach® radio show, Colin Rule, current CEO of Modria, an online dispute resolution company and former eBay and PayPal’s director of online dispute resolution spoke about some of the issues he noticed when dealing with online disputes. During his time with eBay, he created a page with advice on how to deal with conflicts. Interestingly, when the strategies were localized for the Italian eBay site, many believed that the tips were written in a patronizing way. Instead of directly changing the advice, the importance was on rephrasing it in a culturally acceptable way. Cultural standards and social boundaries are often overlooked during online disputes. Another strategy towards preventing online disputes that Rule mentioned while on the show was the significance of creating a personal or conversational relationship with the users. It is easy to skip over traditional conversational norms when dealing online with a person you will never meet. Rule mentions that being polite and conducting online interactions more similarly to face-to-face interactions has better results in resolving disputes.

However, when online disputes cannot be resolved through the use of a feedback system or personal negotiation, a neutral third-party is most beneficial. Centers like Youstice, featured on a previous show, and Modria provide the resources for turning online disputes into resolutions. These types of sites provide quick results and allow the customer to feel like their disputes are more personalized. The issue of a language barrier is overcome with the help of Youstice because their system automatically translates disputes and interactions into the corresponding language. eBay currently uses a similar third-party dispute resolution center in order to reduce hurried negative feedback posts, create customer trust and resolve online disputes in a timely and fair manner.

If you are interested in learning more about online conflicts and dispute resolution, visit this resource and also check out Online Dispute Resolution for Business (Jossey-Bass, 2003) written by Colin Rule.

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

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